Most women know the burning, itching signs of a yeast infection. The overgrowth of Candida Albicans (the yeast responsible) can go hand in hand with oral contraceptives, antibiotic use, and be problematic for diabetics, pregnant and menopausal women. If it’s your first yeast infection, head to your health practitioner to firm up the diagnosis, but if you’ve been around the yeast infection block before, you might try natural steps to combat the problem.
“I think it’s more of an imbalance, not a disease, like a virus or flu,” says Madeleine Glick, MS, RD, a New York-based dietitian. “By eating the right foods and doing the right things to make your body healthier, you shouldn’t get a lot of yeast infections.”
Get rid of yeast infections with these natural home remedies:
1. Clean up your diet. A yeast-free diet eliminates dairy, sugar and white flour (refined carbs) as well as a few other foods including yeast breads and fermented foods like vinegar and anything that contains vinegar (salad dressings, balsamic vinegar in foods, sauerkraut and fermented foods like Miso). These can all trigger symptoms. Skip wine and beer since these alcohols may also be fermented. And while some people swear by yogurt, Glick says to avoid it for a few weeks since it’s often sugar-laden. Once the infection is behind you, add foods back one at a time to see if you can eat them without developing another yeast infection.
2. Garlic. Natural antifungal foods like garlic and onions can combat yeast overgrowth. Sprinkle raw chopped garlic on salads or pasta. If you can handle it, munch the raw cloves.
3. Pau d’arco. This South American herb helps the body regulate yeast overgrowth. If you can find it in liquid form, you can take it as a tincture that can be taken orally or applied topically. Typical dosage is a quarter teaspoon per day. Dosage can be increased when using Pau d’arco externally. The supplement can be taken as a preventative measure at the first sign of yeast or as a cure once a full-blown infection develops.
4. Calendula. Sure, you’ve heard of calendula in facial products, but the plant taken internally can help with yeast overgrowth, says Sara Chana, an herbalist and homeopath in Brooklyn, N.Y. Also a liquid, Chana gives calendula tincture to new moms who often develop yeast infections in their breasts while breastfeeding because they were on antibiotics at delivery due a positive strep B test.
5. Borax 6x. This is a homeopathic remedy that helps get rid of yeast overgrowth. They are tiny pellets to put under the tongue. You can also find borax capsules to use vaginally. Boric acid is a chemical substance with mild antiseptic and antifungal properties. It’s not for pregnant women or to be taken orally.
6. Palmarosa oil. Chana mixes palmarosa oil, an essential oil from the same tropical grass family as lemongrass, (4 drops) and tea tree oil (2 drops) into a commercial yeast infection cream to enhance efficacy. This cream is for the man in your life, too. “If a woman’s having chronic yeast infections, we need to treat that husband. Even if he’s not having symptoms, we have to treat him because he may be an asymptotic carrier,” says Chana.
7. Tea tree oil. “I recommended using a tea tree suppository twice daily (morning and bedtime). I especially like Vitanica Yeast Arrest, which also contains borax, goldenseal, laera, neem, lactobacillus and vitamin E,” says Ivy Branin, ND, a New York City naturopath.
8. Probiotics. These friendly bacteria, may suppress the growth of yeast. “Especially for women with chronic infections, as it will colonize the vagina with beneficial bacteria and reduce recurrences,” says Branin. Take Lactobacillus species (rhamnosus, rheuteri) 1-5 billion, twice a day and Lactobacillus GG twice daily when the infection clears and continue for two to six months.
9. Vitamins and supplements. A good vitamin and supplement practice won’t hurt and may help boost immunity to fight chronic infections. Grapefruit seed extract, an inexpensive supplement, is antifungal and may help long term. Goldenseal, vitamin C, zinc and beta carotene are also recommended.
“The biggest problem I have treating yeast is that people don’t realize it’s a 14-day treatment,” says Chana. Anything less and you’ll likely get a “repeat infection” since more likely the initial infection hasn’t been fully cured.
“It is important to also address risk factors to prevent recurrent candidal infections if they are avoidable. These include over use of antibiotics, douching, feminine hygiene sprays, tight underwear,and poor diet,” says Branin.
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